White House urges additional COVID funding without budget cuts

WASHINGTON — Congress should provide the $22.5 billion President Joe Biden wants to continue the battle against COVID-19 without cutting other programs to pay for it, senior administration officials said Monday.

And if Republicans continue to insist that additional federal efforts to fight the pandemic must be paid for by cutting spending elsewhere, the GOP should make clear what it wants to cut, officials said.

The remarks came nearly two weeks after a new round of COVID-19 funding was pulled from a $1.5 trillion government measure after grassroots Democrats rejected cuts that party leaders had negotiated with the Republicans to pay for it. Although Biden signed the overarching bill, the removal of COVID-19 funds was a major setback for Biden and Democrats.

“Our concern right now is that we’re going to run out of money to provide the kinds of free vaccines, boosters, immunocompromised treatments and the like that will help continue to fight the pandemic,” said Jen, secretary of White House press. PSAKI said on Monday.

Top House Democrats have said they believe they will have to find savings to pay for the additional expenses needed to push the legislation through Congress. The biggest hurdle would be in the Senate, where Democrats will need at least 10 GOP votes to reach the 60 votes needed to pass the most important bills.

The White House says the government is running out of funds for vaccines, tests and treatments, even as the BA.2 variant of Omicron, which is fueling a resurgence of the virus in Europe and Asia, increasingly emerges in the USA.

Senior administration officials said the government had purchased the doses it would need to vaccinate children up to age 5. But they said they only had enough shots to administer a fourth vaccine – which drugmakers recommend for many people – to those with compromised immune systems. systems.

Officials spoke only on condition of anonymity as a condition for reporters to participate in the telephone briefing.

Republicans say savings to pay for new spending would have to be found from the trillions Congress has already provided since the pandemic began two years ago. That includes a $1.9 trillion measure that Democrats rammed through Congress over unanimous GOP opposition a year ago.

Asked about comments from administration officials, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., referred a reporter to comments McConnell made on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. .

McConnell said Republicans would consider the administration’s request, but said they would have to use “some of that massive amount of money that was spent last year and hasn’t come out yet.” So let’s see how to pay for it, then we’ll be happy to decide whether to support it or not.

GOP leaders say the administration did not provide the numbers they sought on how much money was unspent. During Monday’s call, administration officials said they have repeatedly provided ample data on the matter and said Republicans have agreed not to require savings to pay for past emergencies.

Only about $300 billion of last year’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief measure remains unspent and not legally committed to a specific program or recipient, officials said. ‘administration.

But about $240 billion was pledged to specific recipients like states and cities, which built the amounts into their budgets, administration officials said. The administration held back some of the remainder for emergencies, they said.

More than $100 billion of the unspent money to date is earmarked for pandemic aid to state and local governments, and nearly that amount is earmarked for assistance to some pension plans, according to administrative documents obtained by the Associated Press.

Biden’s pandemic spending request had been reduced to $15.6 billion as part of the House compromise bill. That would have been partly paid for by cutting billions of dollars in COVID-19 aid that last year’s bill provided to 30 state governments but had not yet been sent to them.

Many Democrats refused to vote for the overall package until the state aid cuts were removed, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., finally agreed to do. Top Republicans had demanded savings in exchange for supporting the legislation, and Pelosi dropped all COVID-19-related spending after replacement cuts were not found.

Comments are closed.